Andy Musser Dies

On Sunday, at the age of 74, former Philadelphia sports broadcaster Andy Musser passed away in his Wynnewood home.  Over the course of his career, Musser called games for the Eagles, Sixers and Villanova basketball, but his work in the broadcast booth for the Phillies defined his time in Philadelphia.  From 1976 to 2001, Musser was one of the voices of Phillies baseball.  Never the main guy, but always there in the background supporting Richie Ashburn or Harry Kalas.  When I say always there, I mean it…the guy missed only 2 games during that 26-year span (both with laryngitis).

His most memorable call came late in the 1980 regular season, when Mike Schmidt hit a home run to defeat the Expos and clinch the NL East crown.

There have been a lot of articles written over the past two days about Musser’s life and his career, but none better than Tyler Kepner’s piece for the NY Times Baseball Blog published last night. You should read the whole thing, but the introduction makes clear the type of guy Andy Musser was:

Whenever I write a long feature story, I try to quote everyone I interviewed. I feel like I owe it to them, for helping me. I’ve been interviewed for stories but left out of the article, and it’s not a good feeling.

About three years ago, I wrote a piece on the epic 23-22 game between the Phillies and the Cubs in 1979. I talked to one of the broadcasters, Andy Musser, who died on Monday at age 74. I quoted Andy only once in the story – and once more in a blog entry – and I felt bad about that.

I shouldn’t have. A few days after the article appeared, a postcard arrived in my mail box:

“Tyler, Nice job on the 23-22 game yesterday. You really worked hard on it and brought back many memories for me. Thanks for the mention. Cordially, Andy.”

After his retirement in 2001, Andy Musser became the Philly Beer Ambassador for Anchor Brewing Company out of San Francisco.  Musser was a lover of craft beers and used his down time on the road with the Phillies to tour breweries all over the country.

Baseball and beer.  Not a bad life for one of the voices that brought us Philadelphia sports.


A Brief History of Booze and Baseball in Philadelphia

We’ve been talking about beer and baseball all week on the website. Today, I’m going to give you the short but sweet history of beer in Philly ballparks. Most of this info comes from this excellent piece on the Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society. I also got some info from a book I am currently reading by David Nemec called the Beer and Whiskey League and from a book called the Baseball Hall of Shame 4.)

William Hulbert, the man who helped form the National League in 1876 and served as 2nd president, enforced harsh anti-drinking rules right off the bat. He wanted “classy” people to come to baseball games, not drunks, so he made drinking illegal at the ballpark. This didn’t go over well in some cities, particularly Cincinnati. They had a large German population that enjoyed drinking beer at the ballpark, and in 1880 they broke league rules and started serving brews. They were subsequently kicked out of the NL.

In 1882, 6 cities started playing in a new league called the American Association, including Cincinnati and a team in Philadelphia called the Athletics (below, not affiliated with the current A’s). Several of the early owners were brewers who were happy to serve booze at the ballpark. The haughty-taughty National League saw baseball as more like polo, with rich d-bag fans wearing popped collars to the games, drinking sparkling water, and talking about their stock portfolios. They referred condescendingly to this new league as the “Beer and Whiskey League”. The fans of the AA didn’t seem to mind.

However, fans in Philadelphia weren’t allowed to have the fun their counterparts in Cincy, Baltimore, and St. Louis, among others, were having at their brewery-run ballparks. Blue laws made drinking illegal at Athletics games.

The AA broke up in the early 1890s, but a new league, the American League, started play in 1901. They let each city make its own decision when it came to booze, but  the Athletics had no decision to make. Again, thanks to the PA blue laws, the A’s (like the Phillies) simply could not serve booze at the ballpark. At least Philadelphia fans weren’t as upset as fans in other cities when Prohibition came around.

Connie Mack, despite the fact that he was a teetotaller, tried desperately to get beer in the ballpark in the 1930s after Prohibition got repealed, as baseball suffered along with everyone else in the throes of the Great Depression. His pleas went unheeded by the powers that be (See my interview with Bruce Kuklick for more info on Mack’s battle with local politicians and rural Protestants over beer sales.)

The Philadelphia fans offered quite an impetus to make beer drinking in the ballpark legal. They smuggled in bottles and cans of beer by the boatload, and there were a number of instances where fans would then hurl full cans at umpires and players. Once, in 1949, Richie Ashburn made a spectacular shoestring catch, but the umpire botched the call and called it a hit. Phillies fans went nuts. They launched cans onto the field for 15 full minutes, and the umpires finally called the game a forfeit.

The A’s and Phils tried to make the case that they would serve beer in paper cups, taking projectiles out of the crowd. Their opponents were the unlikely allies of temperance leaders and local bar owners, who were happy selling beer before the games for people to smuggle in.

Finally, in 1961, 7 years after the A’s left town, a couple more ugly instances involving beer cans and umpires in Philadelphia caused a public outcry, and the two Pennsylvania teams (the Pirates and the Phillies) both announced that money raised by beer sales would go towards building new stadiums (with Shibe and Forbes Field both on their last legs.) The powers that be saw this as a safety issue and relented. Finally, almost 80 years since MLB baseball began in Philadelphia, fans could drink at the ballpark. But the blue laws would not go w/o a fight. The sale of beer on Sundays would not occur until 1972, after the Phillies moved to the Vet and the A’s were a dynasty in Oakland.

So next time you are at a ballgame enjoying a cold one, give a cheers to the obnoxious Phillies fans who came before you. By acting like belligerent jackasses, they helped ensure that beer could be served at ballgames in Philadelphia. I’ll drink to that.

If you liked this article, you might also enjoy the following:

Searching for Simon Nicholls. The remarkably tragic tale of a turn of the century player on the Philadelphia A’s.

An interview with Author Steve Bucci about Steve Carlton’s amazing 1972 season, when he won 27 games for a Phillies team that won 59 games all year.

The Fast Rise and Tragic Fall of Philly boxer Tyrone Everett, who was murdered by his girlfriend when she caught him in bed with a transvestite.


Part 3 of Our Interview with Bruce Kuklick: Booze, Rowdy Fans, and the Phils’ Roman Colosseum

Had a chance to sit down with local author and Penn prof Bruce Kuklick recently and ask him about his excellent book, To Every Thing a Season. To read Part One of that Interview, where Bruce talks about who was better the 1929 A’s or 2011 Phillies, click here. To read Part Two, where he talks about Connie Mack and the best and worst things about Shibe Park, click here. Today we present part 3, where Bruce talks about why Connie Mack couldn’t serve beer at the ballpark, when Philly fans first got their reputation as being rowdy, and how Penn’s former President prevented Citizen’s Bank Park from being built downtown.

JGT: One thing I found interesting about the book was Mack’s fight to serve alcohol at the ballpark. And that was something that went on for decades. And he never got it done. They wouldn’t let them serve beer in the ballpark until after the A’s left town. Why was their so much pushback to serving beer in ballparks?

KUKLICK: Well first of all, you’ve got to understand, it’s Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is not a dry state, but it’s one in which there are enough rural Protestant Republicans who really want to control drinking to the extent that they can. And this has been true long before the 20th century and it has nothing to do with sports per se.

Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. What do they represent? They represent bad things to a lot of these people. Because they’re urban, there’s a lot more liquor, women, and things like that. And another thing, there are a lot more Catholics in the big cities in comparison to the rest of the state. Mack is a Catholic. And so when he starts agitating for liquor at the ballpark, this represents to the powers-that-be something that is off-color, it’s vulgar, it’s nasty.

JGT: So is Mack fighting more the state or the city?

KUKLICK: He’s fighting the state. There’s a whole series of blue laws which not only control drinking but control your behavior on a Sunday. You know what they say today. They say today, “You’ve got Pittsburgh and you’ve got Philadelphia, and in between you’ve got Alabama.”

I don’t think that Mack saw this as a Catholic drinking issue, which a lot of people have accused him of. He saw it as a revenue stream. And (when it came to drinking laws) from the 1930s to 1970s (They allowed sales of beer in the ballpark starting in 1961, but no beer on Sundays until 1972) it was always politicians in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia against the rest of the state, and the politicians in the big cites get their biggest support from professional sports teams.

JGT: So other ballparks in the country were serving beer well before Shibe?

KUKLICK: Yeah. I don’t know what the exact history of the other ballparks is, but Philadelphia was particularly noted for its dryness. One of the things I didn’t put in the book is that you have so much smuggling of beer into the ballpark. Which is one reason why a place like Kilroy’s (The bar located behind right field where Phillies relief pitchers sometimes snuck into to grab a drink during games.) does so well, because people just grabbed beer there and put it in a bag. So there was a lot of technically illegal beer drinking. Which I think in football contributed to a lot of this rowdy behavior. There’s this history of people smuggling stuff into the parks.

JGT: Speaking of rowdy behavior, Philly fans have a reputation of rowdyism. Does that go back to the Shibe Park days?

KUKLICK: Yeah. Well it first starts in the first decade of the 20th century when the A’s are battling the Detroit Tigers and Ty Cobb (“Sliding” into home, right). And Philadelphia fans hate Cobb. And I find out that they send a death threat to him. And at one point he’s riding on a subway to get to the park and fans come and topple over this subway and he runs scared and runs out. Now, I don’t know that that’s the beginning, but that’s the earliest time I could trace it. They say that today this (CBP) is the only stadium where the crowd can really rattle an opposing pitcher because the fans get so boisterous and angry. There’s a tradition of it here, it goes back over 100 years. Why we got it? I don’t know.

JGT: A guy I interviewed a few weeks ago who was a fan of the A’s in the 20s said that Al Simmons, one of the stars of that team, couldn’t catch a break from the fans. Then you had Del Ennis in the 50s…

KUKLICK: And then you had it with Mike Schmidt.

JGT: So this strange phenomenon of Philadelphia fans beating up on their own is nothing new.

KUKLICK: There’s a story of one guy, Gus Zernial, who was a slugger kind of like Ennis but he didn’t have that long of a career in Philadelphia (note: he played here from 1951-1954). He fell and broke his leg trying to catch a fly ball, and they all cheered when he broke his leg. They’re out for blood.

JGT: Getting back to the ballpark. Looking at what’s happened in the neighborhoods surrounding Wrigley and Fenway since the teams decided to stay, and how those neighborhoods have come back up, had they decided to rehab Shibe instead of tear it down, do you think that neighborhood would be different today?

KUKLICK: I absolutely do. My wife and I went on vacation one time to Club Med, and we were talking to some people, and we said, “Where are you from?” and this guy said “Wrigleyville.” He didn’t say Chicago. And we knew exactly where he was talking about. That ballpark is known all over the Western World. And every once in a while, I think, “Gee if they had only had the foresight.” But basically that area went through a really terrible period. It’s now come up considerably on its own. It’s a lot less nasty and dangerous than it was.

But Carpenter (The Phillies owner at the time) was just not interested.  He didn’t think in those terms at all.

JGT: Like the guys in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, he thought, “I can save a fortune by not having to grow grass.”

KUKLICK: When I teach Vietnam, I’ll say, “Those ballparks that they are now tearing down (Riverfront, The Vet, Three Rivers, etc.), they were all built during that period, and it’s kind of our Roman period. The United States thinks it’s going to conquer the world. And we have these ballparks that look like Roman Colosseums.”  So Carpenter isn’t alone.

JGT: So now they’re at Citizen’s bank. Not in a neighborhood. Are you a fan of Citizen’s Bank?

KUKLICK: Oh yeah. I’m not overwhelmed by it, but I do like going there. I’d like it a lot better if it were in the city. I was one of the people who, well, I’ll tell you this story. The previous President at Penn was a woman named Judy Ronin, who had no sense of baseball or sports at all. And then there were plans to put a stadium on stilts next to the Walnut Street Bridge, so that a home run would go into the river. They had all of these terrific downtown urban plans, and she said, “I don’t want those baseball drunks pissing in my University.” And she vetoed it. I wanted it right there.

You know, Philadelphians have never wanted to build their ballparks right in the middle of the city. When they built Shibe, it was the countryside. I think you have to have more of an urban mindset more so than these planners have had in Philly.

 


Finally…a Wet Beer

This was the ad on the back of the Phillies 1959 scorecards. (You can see the inside of the card here). Interestingly enough, at the time this card was printed, you could indeed have Ortlieb’s before the game or after the game…but not during the game. Shibe Park did not start serving beer until 1961.


The Firing of Bill Campbell, brought to you by Schmidt’s Beer

Beer Week at PSH continues with the story of a new sponsor’s demands, the firing of the Dean and the beginning of our love affair with Harry Kalas.

The final game of the 1970 season marked the end of an era for the Philadelphia Phillies.  In the midst of a re-branding to attract younger fans, the Phillies would be leaving Connie Mack Stadium for the new Astroturfed, exploding scoreboarded, mini-skirted usherette filled Veterans Stadium; they’d updated this logo to a more stylized “P”; they’d be sporting red cleats for the first time in team history; they’d be introducing Phil and Phyllis; they’d be televising more games in ’71 than ever before and adding a 4th camera in addition to slow-mo replays; and they’d made an advertising deal with a new sponsor in C. Schmidt and Sons, the brewer of Schmidt’s Beer.

Another change Phillies fans would be “treated to” in 1971 was the voice of a new play-by-play announcer.  Prior to the start of the season, the Phillies announced that Bill Campbell, the Dean, would not be returning to the booth with By Saam and Richie Ashburn.  Since 1942, Bill Campbell had been the voice of Philadelphia sports.  His career in Philadelphia started at WCAU and in 1946 he became the play-by-play announcer for the expansion Philadelphia Warriors, a post he held until the team relocated to San Francisco in ’64.   He was also the play-by-play guy for the Eagles from 1952 to 1966 and did the same for the Phillies from 1963 to 1970.  He even called Big Five games.  If you watched or listened to sports in Philadelphia during that time period, you did so through Bill Campbell.

Needless to say, the Philadelphia sports world was shocked and disappointed by the news that the Phillies were canning Campbell.  At the luncheon when the announcement was made, reporters simply asked “Why?”  They were told that the decision was made because the Phillies wanted to move to a younger announcer to draw a younger audience.  The new, younger announcer was a relatively unknown 35-year-old from Houston named Harry Kalas.

The media jumped all over the Phillies for the decision.  Frank Dolson of the Inquirer described the firing as premature, saying “Bill Campbell enjoyed doing big-league baseball as much as his fans enjoyed hearing him do it.  Which is why his dismissal came as such a shock.”  Stan Hochman of the Philadelphia Daily News wrote, “the Phillies youth movement has claimed another victim: Bill Campbell.  Announcer-type fellow.  Still has the tonsils.  Can go from ho-hum to home run screech in 3.2 seconds.  Can still snap open a can of beer with èclat…Campbell might be the town’s most professional announcer.  Does his homework, talks to athletes, lets his emotions tumble through his descriptions…Oh, and by the way, the new guy’s name is pronounced Kal-us, as in callous.”  A few days later, Bill Conlin chimed in with the strongest criticism of the firing with an article entitled “Striking Out and Honest Voice.”  He wrote that “all Bill Campbell ever wanted to do was call a good baseball game with some flair and integrity.”

Kalas, who loved Campbell and felt horrible about the situation, ended up doing a pretty good job as Campbell’s replacement.  He built a rapport with Whitey that was second to none in all of sports broadcasting and engendered a special bond with generations of Phillies fans.  The Hall of Fame announcer is sorely missed and will be always remembered.  And Campbell didn’t simply walk off into the sunset after he was pink-slipped.  He became the play-by-play announcer of the Sixers in 1972 and lasted until 1981.  After his play-by-play career was over he hosted a sports talk show on WIP until 1991, when he retired at the age of 68.  Campbell never resented Kalas and the two became great friends.

So what does this have to do with Beer Week?  Well, rumors about the real reason Campbell was let go swirled.  Most didn’t accept the “youth movement” justification because Bill Campbell was still shy of 50 when he was fired.  People thought Bill Giles, who knew Kalas from their time in Houston together and whose wife was best friends with Harry’s wife, was the real force behind the move to replace Campbell.

Giles always denied that was the case and instead, blamed C. Schmidt and Sons.  Interviewed about the situation decades later, Giles claimed that the real reason Campbell was fired was because the new beer sponsor demanded it.  The deal provided that Schmidt’s would pay the Phillies $1 million for broadcasting rights and would also pay the announcers salaries.  According to Giles, the Schmidts wanted Campbell out because he appeared in ads for Ballantine beer, the Phillies previous beer sponsor at Connie Mack.

Campbell, forever disappointed by the decision, never bought that excuse.  He said “Bill Giles blames it on the sponsor.  There wasn’t any sponsor conflict.  Bill wanted to bring Harry in and the problem was the beer sponsor only wanted to pay three of us…Somebody had to go and it was me.”  Bolstering Campbell’s position is this poster and this schedule, which feature the whole crew (Ashburn, Campbell and Samm) in Ballantine ads.

Giles disagreed with Campbell’s thinking: “That’s bullshit.  I didn’t want to embarrass the Schmidt’s beer people, so I put the onus on myself.  When Schmidt’s said Bill Campbell had to go, I knew the guy I wanted, so I called Harry.”

Thank God for Schmidt’s Beer.  In a shitty sort of way, it looks like the ends justified the means.

h/t to Randy Miller’s book “Harry the K, the remarkable life of Harry Kalas,” which served as a source for this post.


Shane Takes a Beer Shower in Chicago

Don’t have to go far back in the time machine for this one. In August of 2009, the Phillies were taking on the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. It was the 5th inning of a game that the Phils would go on to win 12-5, and Cub catcher Jake Fox (now with the Orioles) lofted a fly ball to deep center. Shane perched under it, ready to make the grab, and suddenly an entire beer cascaded down upon him. It turned out that it was thrown by raging D-bag John Macchione (seen below), a Chicago Cubs fan who wears shirts that, uh, well, look like what Shane Victorino wears. Shane of course, handled it all with his usual cascade of cliches:

“I think he needs to be held accountable. But for the most part, I just see it as the guy thought it was fun. It is what it is. It didn’t cost me in any way and it didn’t hurt me in any way. It’s part of the ballgame.”

Yep, you’ve got your force outs, your bunting runners over, your hit and run, and your dumping entire beers on the heads of the players. All part of the ballgame. This was not the first time a player had been hit by beer. A more famous incident happened in the 1959 World Series, and resulted in a beer shower for White Sox left fielder Al Smith and one of the most remarkable photographs in baseball history.


How Booze Helped Philly Win the Controversial 1871 Pennant

There was a team called the Philadelphia Athletic Club that played in Philly in the 1860s and 70s, a separate entity from the American League A’s Club that would be gin playing in 1901. But before I tell you much more about the Athletics controversial pennant win of 1871, I should tell you a bit about baseball rules in the 1870s. They were radically different than today (A special thanks to David Nemec’s Great Encyclopedia of 19th Century Baseball, an amazing reference book where I am getting a lot of my info.)

Home plate was a 12 inch square. The pitcher threw from a box, not a mound, 45 feet from home plate. In 1871, he had to throw underhand, though there was a new rule in 1872 that allowed him to throw sidearmed. The batter was allowed to request high pitches or low pitches. The batter had three strikes, but foul balls did not count as strikes. A hit batsman did not get to take his base until the 1880s. Balls could not roll foul back then. It was deemed fair or foul by where it first hit the ground, not where it ended up. In the 1870s, no-one wore a glove, including the poor catcher, which makes me think that catchers in those days must have been dumb and easily persuaded, because who in their right mind would play catcher with no damn glove?

baseball1

Anyways, the Athletics team was owned by billiard parlor operators and liquor store owners. That would come into play in the controversial 1871 pennant chase. Showing all of the foresight of Bud Selig, the league leaders had never decided whether the team that won the most games or the team that won the most season series would win the pennant. There was also controversy over what to do about some games that a team in Rockford had won with an illegal player. The following is taken from the Great 19th Century Encyclopedia:

On November 3, in Philadelphia, loop president James W. Kerns called a meeting to sort out the confusion and find a way to name a champion by November 15. Harry Wright (manager of the Boston Red Stockings, the other team the committee was considering for the pennant) could not have felt easy when he realized that Kerns and the Athletics, in their role as hosts of the meeting, meant to provide refreshments-namely champagne. In the convivial atmosphere it was perhaps inevitable that the committee, after waffling all season, resolved enough of the contested issues in the Athletics favor to crown them the first major league champions.


Harry Kalas, Schmidt’s Beer, and Hot Pants


My favorite part is when she does jumping jacks. Keep it classy, Philadelphia! We’re going to be doing booze related posts all week for Beer Week, so stay tuned. Here’s some great photos and a terrific short bio of Schmidt’s Beer, which was founded in 1860 and closed in 1987, on the site of what is now the Piazza at Schmidt’s.


When Phillies Relief Pitchers Drank During the Games

This hilarious nugget is from a book I just ordered, “To Every Thing a Season: Shibe Park and Urban Philadelphia“:

The 2700 block of North Twentieth Street was more intimately connected to baseball than any other part of North Penn. Across the street from the bleacher entrance was the obvious place for ballplayers to live. They also frequented the taproom at the corner of Twentieth and Lehigh, Kilroy’s until 1935 and later Charley Quinn’s Deep Right Field Cafe. Relief pitchers would leave the right field gate near the bullpen to tilt a few during the early innings of games in which the Phillies piled up a big lead.

Can you imagine Ryan Madsen heading over the McFadden’s to grab a couple of quick ones in the early innings of a blowout?